On the Simplicity of Just Being

As an overthinker, it can be easy to get distracted from the present moment. Too often I find myself paralysed with fear about the next few years, or even weeks, which detracts me from just being. It’s hard to overcome, but of late I’ve been more successful.

Tuning in with myself every morning by writing a few pages in my journal has allowed the worries I may feel to slip to one side. It doesn’t cure them, nor eradicate them, but it means that I can have a day where all my energy isn’t solely dissipated on that.

But it is in these very moments of stillness – that have become even more abundant in the second lockdown we are now living through – that I have experienced joy, a sense of peace and calamity. I’ve never been one for mass excitement, big gatherings or celebrations, as I’d much rather be with just a few people or even curled up by myself with a good book. However, during this pandemic, I have gained so much from just being.

Whether that be sitting still and listening to the sounds around me – the cry of the birds, the hum of gentle traffic – or slowly making my way through a book at my own pace. Or even, sitting in silence in the same room as my partner as we both do our own thing. Just being in the moment, recognising it and making peace with it without worrying about the future, has been, and continues to be, a great comfort for me.

Maybe I sound like an old lady way beyond my time. But maybe I don’t. During an age of mass excess, at least, the pandemic appears to have made our lives simpler. The allocation of more time spent at home has allowed some of us to spend more time with ourselves, figure out what we love and strip things back down to the basics. And isn’t this what life is really about? If we don’t know what the simple things we love in life are, then what are we striving for? In the same vein – overcomplication can often lead to apprehension and depreciation.

Taking time to be at peace and appreciate the moment instead of worrying about the future, is something I’ve learnt to recognise and started to practice this year. It’s helped me to become more present, mindful and at peace with myself.

I’m still not sure what my future holds, or where I’ll end up, but for once, I’m okay with that. I’m not having sleepless nights panicking about what kind of grand career I haven’t planned out for myself, but am, for now, content with the beauty of being. And just surviving in this thing called life. This doesn’t mean I’ve stagnated – in fact, I have a myriad of ideas. Ideas I would never have dreamed up if it wasn’t for lockdown.

I’m not sure what this post was meant to be, or quite where I was going with it. I just came on here to say hello and that I’m still here on this blog, from time to time. But I knew that I wanted to write about what I felt in this moment – which was a deep sense of inner peace, from just being.

If you’re reading this, I hope you take a moment to just be. Soak it all in, and try not to worry about tomorrow or the next day. As now is all we have.

Sending love and best wishes to everyone.

Check out my latest posts on Medium here.


“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today. I’ll always remember it.”

Emma Morley, One Day (David Nicholls)

A Change of Direction

Long time no see! It has been a while since I’ve been posting on this blog regularly, so I thought I should get around to addressing the elephant in the room.

I started this blog a long time ago but committed myself to post on here regularly at the start of the year. This blog has offered me a lot of comfort and a way to express myself in a period of my life which has been fraught with a lot of uncertainty. Graduating in 2020, and then being hit by a global pandemic was not on the list of things I thought would happen this year, but there you go, it just goes to show we never know what’s around the corner.

I like to think I’ve grown a lot since starting this blog. I like to think that I have gotten better at writing, talking about books and of course, reading and expanding my horizons. I hope in some way I’ve managed to inspire someone to pick up a book after they’ve read one of my reviews.

During the pandemic and being out of work for 7 months, writing and reading have been my lifeline. It has been my source of distraction, escapism and labor of love during this rollercoaster period. Although I’m 23 and have nearly been a graduate for a year, I haven’t moved forwards much, and although I can’t blame the pandemic alone, it’s taken a significant toll on the kind of direction I see myself in.

Like many, I’m starting to question whether I want the big career that everyone always chases after. In recent months, I’ve preferred the idea of living a quiet life and having just enough money and savings to live comfortably and at ease.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, and feel the pressure mounting everyday. I’m 23, and still haven’t ever had a “proper job” and sometimes it can be hard to see how I’m adding to the world in a positive way – which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

All I know is that I love writing and hope that one day it can be good enough to make me a living and make an impact on someone’s life. Maybe that’s selfish and a bit pig-headed, I don’t know. But all I do know is that I love both reading and writing and hope that one day I can spend the rest of my life doing these things. What’s the point in spending a minute of your life not doing something you love?

I’ve been quiet on this blog as I’ve been swept into the minefield that is Medium. Before I started writing on there, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if my writing would get drowned out by the sheer range of amazing writers there, or if I could get more noticed than I do over here. I will stress that writing for me isn’t solely about getting noticed, but it’s nice to make an impact and be recognized for my work.

The brunt of it is, as each day passes I am growing more fond of Medium and seeing far more benefits. Not to say this doesn’t happen on WordPress from time to time, but the community of writers over there are incredibly supportive and some of the friendliest strangers I’ve ever come across. The wealth of publications and the standard of writing never fails to amaze me, and I generally feel kind of honoured to be part of it as I use it to explore and experiment into what kind of writer I want to be. In that respects, this blog is going to take a backseat now.

The reality of it is, I find Medium is easier to write on, and in two months I nearly have three times the audience over there than I do on here. I’m less into the blogging style of writing and that’s why I am attracted to the simplicity of Medium. I feel like it prioritizes the quality of writing over anything else – which appeals to me.

In many ways, this blog was the start of everything. When I felt truly alone and hopeless in my first year of university, I turned to this blog for the first time and wrote about how I felt. It was the first time I had been so honest online about my feelings and it paved the way for growing my confidence. Looking back, I like to think that I now write with greater eloquence, wit and appeal – but who knows!

This blog has also given me a lot of opportunities in recent months, as I’ve been approached by small publishers and authors to review and read books, which I never thought would happen! I’m so grateful for everyone who has ever reached out to me and feel truly humbled that I can play a small part in spreading the word for some wonderful books. I’m taking a small break from that at the moment, but I’ll be accepting review requests again soon.

In other words – from now on, I’m primarily going to be publishing over on Medium.

However, that doesn’t mean this blog is going to be deleted or that I won’t be active on here from time to time. I plan to use this platform primarily as a portfolio and a place to direct people to when looking for work, but I will still be posting book reviews. The WordPress and Medium community are very different, but I can find value in both, which is why I’m going to remain using them both.

If you are a Medium user, you can find my profile here and I’ve also started a publication over there with the same name as this blog, The Violet Review, if you would like to follow that too.

So, expect to see less content over here, as I focus more of my attention on Medium. That’s not to say I won’t be posting, but it will probably be more personal things, rants and ramblings, sandwiched between book reviews and the like.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, liked or commented on my blog posts – it means a lot to me and continues to do so. This isn’t a goodbye, but just to update you on some changes I’m making as to the direction of my writing.

Happy reading!

Violet

Surviving Another Year Around the Sun

I’m never one for making a big deal out of birthdays. The more I have of them, the more I want to ignore them. I know I’m only young, but I’ve always feared getting old.

23 feels like the beginning of getting older, or of life getting more serious. I thought I’d write a sort of self reflection post, but I don’t really know where I’m going with it. This might be one that ends up being deleted.

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done much in a year. Sure, I finished university and graduated but since last September I haven’t really achieved much. I started a job I loved, finished that one, started another job and then furlough happened and I’m back to square one.

I haven’t got that ‘proper’ job that everyone speaks of and I still don’t know when I will. I guess my younger self always thought I would have it together by this age and be a proper adult. But what does a proper adult even mean?

Time is a strange thing and it means different things to everyone. Some people want to get married in their twenties and have children straight away, whereas others want to wait. I’m not in a rush, but I do wish my life had a bit more momentum and I was somewhat closer to being where I want to.

But I can’t blame myself for that, Covid happened out of the blue and was never something I could control. And I have been making steps and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s what matters, right?

The next few years are going to be a hard one to try and start a career in and it feels like our generation has faced obstacle after obstacle (nearly two global recessions now, come on) so this year I’m not going to be too hard on myself and I’m going to celebrate every small achievement.

I may be 23, but that doesn’t mean I have to have my whole life together – it just feels that way due to societal pressures and expectations.

Bu I do have things to be proud of.

I’ve been brave enough to put myself all over the internet in the form of blog posts, articles and writing on Medium. First year university me would never have been this bold, maybe not even third year university me. I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence with my writing but I’m nowhere near there yet – but it’s a journey, right?

I feel like I am managing my anxiety better than I used to. At university I used to let it just take hold of me. But now I make the effort and I’m learning about what’s best for me. Having a slower pace to life since the pandemic has definitely helped, and so has rediscovering journaling.

I think in a way I have channeled myself more this year, as I’ve been able to do things I lost track of at university. Like reading, writing and just being. I haven’t found myself fully yet, but apparently that happens more as you go into your 20s…

I’m by no means perfect or where I want to be yet – but that’s okay. I survived another year – and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

It’s also Hugh Grant’s birthday today, so happy birthday to him (he’s 60!)

100 Followers: A Reflection on blogging so far

I’ve recently hit a small (very small, actually) milestone of 100 followers. I started this blog with the hope of reaching this target by the end of the year, so I’m incredibly pleased (and amazed) that I’ve gotten to this stage.

Without a doubt, being at home for 4-5 months during the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that I could put more time into my blog. Despite everything, I’m very thankful for the extra time it has given me to read and write. Having said that, some days and weeks I have struggled.

When there is no routine, or even exposure to ‘normal life’ I have sometimes found my energy or inspiration to write completely sucked out of me. There were days that I just stared at a blank screen and no words would come, or I could simply not summon up the energy to even start.

I still ask myself, how on earth did Shakespeare write King Lear during quarantine?

I think what I have learnt most of all from the short time I’ve been doing this, is that writing and running a blog takes time, dedication, and love.

When I post frequently I see more engagement and traffic – which obviously makes sense. It is not all about followers but it is nice to know that people enjoy reading what I have to say.

I’ve already met some really nice people via this little online community and I think it’s really important to engage with other like minded people. I love starting conversations with people about books and will be forever grateful for this platform!

I have really enjoyed the process of curating my little corner of the internet – although my blog is by no means perfect or big, I’m proud of how far I have come. I used to get so nervous about posting and people reading my work, but now it has just become routine. It has done the world of wonders for my confidence and finding a ‘voice’ as a writer.

Image: Violet Daniels

Starting this blog has also given me access to lots of advanced copies of books, for which I am very grateful for. One thing is for sure – I feel like I am never going to run out of things to read! It’s so nice to play an active part in the reviewing process and know that I could influence a reader to buy the book and also, help the author.

Reading has now become such a big part of my life and I really do love writing about books and sharing my reviews with you. I feel out of love with reading for pleasure when I was at university and am so glad I can now read what I want. I’m a firm believer in the power of books and only want to spread that message.

I’ve also enjoyed sharing my thoughts on politics. These posts don’t do as well, partly because with everything going on at the moment, I think it’s nicer to read about other things! Nonetheless, Covid-19 has been a testing time for the government, and I think it is important that we scrutinize them and go on doing so. I have always had a passion for politics and will continue to share my thoughts and ideas on this platform. However, I do this more on Backbench.

Honestly, writing has been keeping me sane over this period. Without it, I would be pretty lost!

I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who reads my posts, likes and comments, and who follows me – I am hugely grateful and really appreciate your support. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Love and best wishes,

Violet xxx

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Notes from an insomniac

I stare blankly at the ceiling in the dark room for the fourth time that week. I thought this night would be different, I felt so calm and relaxed when I went to bed and wasn’t expecting to have a difficult night. After hours staring at the same four walls I hesitantly look at my watch, seeing it’s 3:30am. The light is already beginning to pour through the cracks in the curtains, and the world is slowly rising, already.

It seems quite apt that I am writing about my long night not being able to sleep, on the longest day of the year. For me, it will feel like the longest day, in more ways than one.

I have struggled with bouts of insomnia for most of my adult life. At 18, I first experienced the frustration that comes with not being able to sleep. Something that seems so instinctive, so natural, started then to become difficult. It was the summer of my final A-Level exams, I hadn’t slept a wink before stepping into the exam hall. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the exam, let alone perform to the capacity I needed to, to get into university. Somehow I did. To this day I don’t know whether that lack of sleep influenced my grades, but it still feels remarkable to me, what the brain and body could cope with on such a severe lack of sleep.

I’ve always been a “difficult sleeper,” one of those people that wake up in the night from even the softest noises. My mum always remembers the inconvenience on Christmas eve when I was younger, me always stirring in my sleep as she came to deliver my stocking. Since my first experience of insomnia it has come in waves. Throughout lockdown (over twelve weeks now) I have been reading with curiosity about peoples’ struggle with sleep during isolation. However, until now, I’ve never recently had a problem. In fact, my sleep was probably the best it has been in a long time, I was regularly clocking between 8-9 hours a night, usually falling asleep instantly. A few nights ago, I began to experience the racing mind, throwing my months of beautiful sleep out of whack.

I have effectively been awake since 3:30am (it’s 7:30am when I’m writing this) but I don’t feel tired. My eyes feel sore and itchy and my body slightly heavier but my mind is working as it usually does. In the hours before now, I managed to finish a book, write in my journal and now I’m writing this. In my experience, the crash will come soon enough during the day. However, I have never been someone that finds napping easy, nor beneficial. I hope to wait it out, to try and tire myself out as much as I can.

Me at 18 would get incredibly panicky at the prospect of not sleeping. You can’t blame me really, as this was happening against the backdrop of my final exams. It had never happened to me before and I didn’t know how my body and mind would react. Ever since, throughout my experiences of bouts of insomnia, I tend to look to this moment when the same creeping concern arises. I managed to do my A-Levels off the back of no sleep, I can get through today…

The funny thing is – last night my mind was completely at ease. I felt clam from an evening of unwinding, and when I closed my eyes for the night, nothing was on my mind. It was dark and quiet. The perfect conditions for a good nights sleep. But sleep just never came. I was simply laying there, my mind empty, with nothing happening. How can you explain that? I don’t let myself ponder on it too much. I find if I occupy myself with it, I will worry all the more when the time comes to go to bed. Nowadays, after several years, I have come to accept the situation and try and get on with the day as best I can.

Image: Pixabay

I haven’t ever spoken to anyone who has experienced insomnia or sleeping difficulties. Explaining it to someone who has never experienced it is hard. Going to sleep should feel like the easiest thing in the world. A treat, even, in this modern world of overload. I feel like it’s one of those problems that you can only understand fully when you’ve been through it yourself.

Even after days of not getting enough sleep, it seems crazy that my body still won’t naturally succumb to rest. Even when my mind feels at ease.

I’m writing this in the hope that it may enlighten some people and shed light on the struggle. But also, because I need to do something to fill the spare hours! I hope that it may be insightful or comforting to people in some way.

Have you ever experienced insomnia? If so, what are your tips for a good nights sleep? I’d love to know. Although I think I’ve tried most things at this point...

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